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WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get)

What is WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get)?

WYSIWYG (pronounced wiz-ee-wig) is a type of editing software that allows users to see and edit content in a form that appears as it would when displayed on an interface, webpage, slide presentation or printed document. WYSIWYG is an acronym for "what you see is what you get."

WYSIWYG editors enable users to manipulate the content or layout without having to type any commands. For example, when users write a document using a word processor, it uses WYSIWYG, as what they create, format and edit is replicated in the printed document or PDF file.

Before WYSIWYG editors, developers had to enter descriptive codes (or markup) without a quick way to see the markup results. The first proper WYSIWYG editor was a word processing program called Bravo. Invented by Charles Simonyi at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center in the 1970s, it became the basis for Simonyi's work at Microsoft. It evolved into two other WYSIWYG applications that are now part of Microsoft Office: Word and Excel.

WYSIWYG is used in modern applications like content management systems (CMSes), customer relationship management (CRM) systems, email systems, WYSIWYG web builders, document management tools and other systems with written content. WYSIWYG is popular in web publishing applications such as blogging.

What is a WYSIWYG HTML editor?

A HyperText Markup Language (HTML) WYSIWYG editor, such as Adobe Dreamweaver CC or a free WYSIWYG HTML editor like Froala Editor, conceals the markup and allows the developer to think in terms of how the content should appear. However, one of the trade-offs is that in some instances an WYSIWYG HTML editor will on its own insert the markup code it feels is needed. Then, the developer must know enough about the markup language to go back into the source code to clean it up.

See also: mobile application development, web development framework, web application development, content management application, desktop publishing, markup

This was last updated in August 2022

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